It was another great reading from Ontario Edublogs.  Here’s some of what I enjoyed this past week.

Wow what a great day of learning at the Ontario GAFE Summit

The Ontario Google Apps in Education Summit was held last weekend.

It’s always pleasurable to read blogs and Twitter stories from people who attended professional learning events.  This blog post will bring you up to speed with at least a part of the summit.  And, the content is extended further with a Storify of Twitter messages to tell more of the story.

Jonathon’s comments certainly echoed what I caught from the summit with the hashtage #gafesummit


Tim King had a different take on the Google Summit.  He was tweeting some non-summit things clearly at the time the summit was happening and they had nothing to do with it.  Oh, I finally clued in, he’s stayed home to watch the Bahrain Grand Prix.  Sometime during the weekend, he penned his thoughts about getting excited about a sole provider in education.

It’s an interesting reality check for all to have.  As I commented on his blog, technology does tend towards a single solution at times.  i.e “We’re a Macintosh board” or “We’re a Windows board”.  There’s certainly more curriculum to cover than time, do we have the time to spend on a broad sampling of software or hardware?

Also check out his later post “Hack the Future“.

Want Great PD? Enter Another Teacher’s Classroom!

This is something that we all know could be of value but the time has to be right, arrangements made, and a plan put into action.  My computer science classroom door was never closed and a certain Science teacher would always wander in while I was working with students and see what they were doing and asking questions.

I remember the first time that it happened – it was my first year of teaching and a million thoughts entered my mind “Were we to noisy?” “Did one of my students get caught wandering the halls?” “Was there a science experiment gone bad and there was an evacuation?”

No, he was just curious…

This post by Diane Maliszewski should serve as a reminder that we don’t need to have a big, involved professional development event to learn.  Sometimes, a great idea may be just down the hallway.

Feeling off-balance is okay

Julie Balen offers a wonderful post that should remind us all that the learning should never stop.

Taking technology purchased for one of her courses and then using it in all her courses was considerably more involved than passing them out, turning them on, and watching the magic happen.

I think that everyone could or maybe even should write this blogpost from their own experiences.

It’s a nice reality check.

What a wonderful collection of posts from this past while.  Thanks so much to the authors.  I hope that you take the time to visit these blogs and enjoy the full postings.  While you’re reading, check out the complete listing of Ontario Edublogs here.

A #BIT14 Twitter Chat

A number of Ontario (and other places … first two participants were from Australia and Singapore) educators came together for the first of a number of Twitter Chats leading into the 2014 Bring IT, Together Conference.  The conference will be held in Niagara Falls, ON on November 5-7.  There are still a few days for people to submit session proposals for the conference so the hopes were that the content of the chat might lend some inspiration for those experiencing writer’s block getting their proposals ready.  The topic?

“Your biggest challenge integrating technology into the classroom/school”.

A Storify of the chat transcript is located here.


A big thanks to those who joined in.  Look for another chat in the near future designed to get people thinking and meeting about computer and technology before the actual conference.

21st Century Literacies: Media Literacy in My Classroom

The following is a guest blog post courtesy of Michelle Solomon and Carol Arcus.


The Association for Media Literacy is a volunteer charitable organization comprised of parents, educators and media producers who support the development and application of media literacy. They have been a driving force in the support and development of media literacy curriculum in Ontario since 1978. They have also been recognized internationally for their work, winning an award for “The Most Influential Media Education Organization in North America” in 1998. The AML organizes and provides workshops, presentations and seminars for educators, parents and students. They speak at conferences around the world and for locally organized events: institutes, conferences, PD Days, parents’ nights and university courses.

One of the more recent initiatives is the “21st Century Literacies” series, begun in partnership with York University’s Faculty of Education in 2012. The intent was to address the changing landscape of learning in response to changing media tools and technologies. That first year, a conference was mounted in the Spring to support teacher candidates; the theme was the use of social media in the classroom. Since then, the conferences have continued annually in the month of April, more recently offering workshops on the teaching, integration, and assessment of media literacy skills at all levels.

This year, on April 5, the AML is presenting “Media Literacy in My Classroom”, an opportunity to meet practising teachers who will share their teaching strategies and answer questions such as, “How do I use media to improve the presentation and oral skills of students?” and “What does student media work look like and how do I assess it?” The conference spans the day (8:30 to 4), is free, and is open to York Faculty of Education teacher candidates, as well as all educators interested and involved in media literacy education.

Registration is done through Eventbrite and, at the time of this writing, only a very few seats were left.  If you’re interested, register soon.

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A First Time for Everything

On the event of its 8th birthday, Twitter has released a tool that will let you find your first Twitter message.  Ah, the good ol’ days.  My first message was…

I have no idea the context or even where I was.  I do know that, if I was in Essex County, it might have been one of our famous storms that come up at a moment’s notice.  For those of you who question my sleeping habits, you’ll undoubtedly notice that it was first thing in the morning, even back then.  ~59.5K messages later and here I am today.

I am comforted that my message wasn’t “I hope this works” or “Testing…Testing…Testing” or “I’m in a workshop learning how to Tweet”.

What was your first Twitter message?

Head over to the tool and find out.  It’s located here.

You’re not limited to just yourself.  Find and shame your friends!

I’ll bet that the hashtag #FirstTweet trends for the next week or so until we tire of this and move on….

This Week in Ontario Edublogs

Lots of fun and good reading this past week from Ontario Edubloggers had me doing some thinking.  Thanks to those who continue to push things via their blogs.

Baking Cookies as Life Lessons

Now, I didn’t know that Diana Maliszewski didn’t cook.  Apparently, she doesn’t bake either.  But, she did challenge herself over the March Break and shared her stories and a number of pictures of her efforts.  With each success, she shared some lessons that she learned.  Her post started as an amusing read but turned into one with great learnings and I thank her for being open enough to share them.

By way of modelling, she’s avoiding saying “I don’t like cooking.”  Perhaps more people should adopt this positive approach.  We might never hear the words “I don’t like Mathematics” again.  To steal a phrase, just do it.  You’ll like the results.

The Problem with SAMR

In a recent post, Royan Lee takes on one of the current sacred cows of our time in technology.  It also generated a great deal of activity in the comments.  What I like about SAMR is that it’s causing people to have a conversation about technology.  We haven’t seen this much conversation about a single topic since “It’s about good teaching, not about the technology.”  In many cases, it’s the same people trying to each from both sides of the platter.

In the post, Royan gives a reasoned approach to what he finds as problems with SAMR.  I found myself agreeing with so much of what he wrote.

Sadly, I think that many of the folks who are hammering SAMR are just using it as the latest tool.  “We bought xxxxx instead of yyyyy because of SAMR”.  Or, take a look and you’ll find people drawing charts, graphs, and so on identifying applications by SAMR level.  Sadly, it’s all to the exclusion of good teaching.  Somehow because someone who people look up to makes a chart that says this app fits into “Redefinition”, they interpret it to mean that it actually does despite teaching practice and that it will work the same way for all teachers and all students?   Why do we even have teachers if this is true?

I wonder if these people have even looked at Dr. Puentedura’s resources?

If I Ruled The World — Or At Least Had My Say On Curriculum Expectations …

Aviva Dunsiger is always good for a read and I could have chosen many of her recent posts to include here.  I decided to take a look at this once where she took the discussion of the value of cursive writing to her blog.

Now, I’ve never had to teach students cursive writing.  I have had to tell students to print and not use cursive while writing programs so that they can recognize the intricacies of their code later.  I wonder how much longer it would take to print a test rather than write a test.  We’re nowhere near universal access to technology so using a computer keyboard everywhere is out of the question.  Heck, we haven’t even wrestled BYOD to the ground yet.

But I wonder…

  • How would you sign your name to a cheque or a mortgage?
  • If you don’t learn to write in cursive, could you read a document that was done in cursive?
  • What would the guy from Pawn Stars with the big briefcase holding a magnifying glass do if his handwriting recognition expertise is no longer needed?

Self-Serve Learning – but only at school?

Heather Theijsmeijer is sharing her thoughts about how BYOD is working in her classroom through her blog.  Specifically, this post talks about her MFM2P class.  Math classes depend so much upon prior love of the subject area and 2P is no different.

But, how about moving to a BYOD model?  Maybe the world will change with the “D”s?  Students will work faster and be more engaged, right?  Heather shares some honest insights from her experiences.

She closes with more questions than answers…

I think these are important questions that at least need to be asked before diving into the BYOD swimming pool.  Bringing devices into a classroom isn’t going to change years of a mindset and expectations overnight.  Hopefully, she’s still early enough in the course to be able to get some satisfactory answers to her questions.  And, if YOU have the answers, share them through her blog.

The Transformative Power of Reading and Talking Literature

I felt guilty reading Julie Balen’s recent post.

I used to read a great deal of fiction.  But, I turned to the bookshelf behind me and it’s full of computer technical manuals, programming language references, printer paper, and two books by Earl Derr Biggers.

I feel a resolution may be in order.

Thanks again to those Ontario Edubloggers who continue to write about such interesting things.  Please take the time to visit these blogs and share your thoughts with the writers.  The complete list of Ontario Edubloggers is available here.  If you are an Ontario Edublogger and not already listed, please add yourself.  I’d really like to read your blog.

A Chance to Articulate

As I noted yesterday, I think that it’s important that you have the chance to articulate just what it is that you’re doing with technology.  If you can’t explain why and how, it’s difficult to justify the time and cost devoted to the project.  In the post, I really liked the fact that Jenny Luca took the time to explain to the parents of her school community just what it is that her school is doing and why.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t take the opportunity as co-chair for the Bring IT Together Conference to invite you to articulate just what you’re doing via a presentation at this great Ontario conference in November.

From your choice of 45 minute, half-day, or full-day sessions, you’ll have an audience of colleagues where you can share just what it is that you’re doing in your classroom.  Whether it’s a new piece of software, a new pedagogy, a tried and true project, …, the conference is filled with other educators looking for the best ideas to use in their classroom.

What’s unique about a conference articulation is that folks aren’t just chomping at the bit to get it over with and go home!  At a conference, people are there to learn and share.  It’s the social aspect that really enhances the learning.

In the move to Niagara Falls, the conference committee decided that there needed to be more than just a change in location.  A very serious effort was made to facilitate the social.  That’s why you’ll find the Learning Space where you can create your own edcamp like experience, the comfy chairs in the hallways, the photowalk, the socials, and just the location.  The place just lends itself so nicely for conversations.

Whether it’s people wanting to challenge your premise, wanting more information about it, or looking for partnerships between classrooms, this is a great place to start.

Why not consider articulating the great things that are happening in your class and school?

The Call for Proposals is currently open.  Click here to submit a proposal.

A more detailed post by yours truly appeared here.

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Given that many are taking an unpaid leave day today, I do hope that there are some readers of this post.  I want to share some of the excellent thinking from Ontario Educators from the past while.

Teacher Leadership and Change

Colin Jagoe’s most recent post talks about a change in the way that leadership happens in his board.  The direction seems to be one away from expertise in a subject area to responsibilities in more than one discipline.  Even the title that he describes is different going from Department Head to Lead Teacher.

I heard it said somewhere (and have often used the line myself) that there are 2 things that teachers hate. Change and the way things are.

It will be interesting to see how it plays out.  In years gone by, I was actually a Director – there were two of us in the school and we were differentiated from Department Heads by the size of budget that we managed.  Time moved on there to and, while the title is now Department Head, it does take in Family Studies in addition to Business Education.  I suspect that we’ll see more of this model as time goes by.  In the comments to the post, there’s an interesting discussion speculating why this has happened and possible benefits.

Olympic Medals and Test Scores

Does this sound like some other media fabrication that happens every fall where schools and districts are ranked based on provincial or state testing?

Colin Harris draws an interesting analogy between ranking of athletes at an Olympic event and the ranking of schools.  It’s like an extension to Alfred Thompson’s Sorting Isn’t Simple post.  There are more things that go on at Olympic games and I guess it’s only natural to guess and speculate as to how things are ranked.  Ask my wife and she’ll have a theory about the EQAO of Ice Skating judging.  Plus one of the criteria is number of medals – does this mean we won the Olympics because of all the gold medals we walked away with in hockey?

It is too bad that everything has to be judged – sometimes objectively and other times subjectively – with the ultimate goal of assigning a letter or a number or a medal to a performance.  We strive for perfect solutions to imperfect events.

Minecraft and Fractals – a wonderful pair!

Zoe Branigan-Pipe and Beth Carey offer an actual lesson plan for using Minecraft in the Mathematics classroom.  This lesson addresses the understanding of fractals.

I may just have to sit down and work through this to get a sense of how it works.  There are times when I feel like I’m the last person on earth to drink the Minecraft Koolaid.  Obviously, I’ve done it on the personal level and haven’t worked with it at any deep level of any sense.  Kudos to those that can make it work for them and their students.

Learning by Playing Around

Joan Vinall-Cox offers a first impression of working with the Notability app on her iPad.  In the course of her work, she finds some of the shortcuts that are built into iOS which are so handy.  I totally agree with her than an apostrophe would help these old keyboarding fingers.  I find going to the alternate layouts or long holding on the , key breaks up the flow that I get when I’m keying.

I’ll admit that when I’m keying on my iPad, I’m a hunter and pecker.  I’ve tried using the traditional layout and my keyboarding skills but it’s just not the same.  A couple of years ago, Zoe Branigan-Pipe and I bought ourselves Kensington keyboards and covers for our iPads.  That’s what I use when I’m typing there but I miss the right shift key.  I think I paid too much attention in Grade 9 Typing.

If anyone is looking for an ECOO 2014 presentation idea, how about a smackdown of the various text editing programs available for iOS?  I know that I would attended a comprehensive comparison of all that’s available.  Notability?  Evernote?  Penultimate?  Lumen Note?  Note Spark?  How’s a person supposed to know?

Safe Sounds for podcasting – Canada, 2014

Still at Joan’s site, she shared a presentation about getting safe sounds for podcasting.  I don’t think that this is a message that people can hear and relate to students often enough.

What’s really important to Ontario Educators is that Joan addresses Fair Dealing.  I get so tired of hearing people talking about Fair Use.
Anyway, it’s a good presentation to flip through as a reminder or a research for students.  In the light of the announcement of Getty images made today, I hope that she’ll do a similar presentation for that.
Great thinking folks.  Thanks so much for sharing.  Please visit the pages at the links above and read the entire posts.  You can check out the entire collection of Ontario Edublogs at the Livebinder located here.

Call for Presenters–#BIT14

ECOO members received an email yesterday announcing the Call for Presenters for the 2014 Bring IT, Together.  In case your announcement got caught in a spam filter, you missed it, or you’re not an ECOO member, the message appears below.


I had previously announced that the calls were open in a blog post “Get Your Keyboard Out #BIT14”.

Already announced are keynote speakers Richard Byrne from “Free Technology 4 Teachers” and George Couros, “The Principal of Change”.  Look for more details as they get confirmed.

A direct link to the “Call for Proposals” can be found here.

Please consider submitting a proposal if you’re doing something with technology that really works well in your classroom and/or there’s a topic that you’re passionate about.  It would be great to have you on the program.

This is the only conference for Ontario Educators by Ontario Educators in the province.  Plan now to be in Niagara Falls, ON for November 5, 6, 7, 2014.

A Personal Learning Framework

I had a boss once who passed along some advice to me.  I wish I could remember exactly what it was but I do remember the context.  It was yet another one of my trips to his office to do some planning and sharing ideas.  His advice was something about being so far out there that your initiative wouldn’t be able to differentiate enemy fire from friendly fire or something.  I still don’t know if it was pedagogical advice or his way or saying “no budget to do that”.  I should ask him during one of our coffee get togethers.

The interaction came to mind last night as I was watching or rather listening to Stephen Downes’ keynote at “Connecting Online for Instruction and Learning 2014″.  I started out watching so that I could see the interaction in the chat window but then opened another tab in my browser to do some work while listening to Stephen in the background.  However, I did watch long enough to see the cat photobomb.  In terms of ideas being out there, some of the concepts he explains go so far beyond my reality, I wonder if we’re even on the same plane.  In particular, you can hear his voice light up when talking about gRSShopper and his vision for Personal Learning Environments.  I found his discussion of data and personal information very interesting although the how’s far exceed what I think I know about networking.

Anyway, if you have an hour to devote to pushing your thinking, then you need to experience this talk and think about what it might mean to you personally.  His descriptor:

In this talk I review two major threads of our work at NRC over the last few years, MOOCs and Personal Learning Environments (PLEs). I describe the gRSShopper project and our Plearn PLE prototype development. Placing these in the context of a network theory of learning, I then outline the new Learning and Performance Support System (LPSS) program being undertaken at NRC. Alternative audio source here.

Do your mind some good.  Watch or listen to the presentation.  How far ahead of the masses do you feel Stephen’s thinking is?   Are you ready to join him?  Is your school or organization?

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Do’s for Student Blogging

I read this blog post this morning and really enjoyed it.  “Top 20 Do’s and Don’t’s of Blogging”.  The focus was to the professional blogger and so some of the topics may not necessarily apply for student blogging.  The other thing is that it contains a lot of don’t’s which sound a lot like rules and you know students (and teachers) when it comes to rules – they want to push to see how far they bend before they break.  Inspired by this, I thought I would take a look at putting together a list of Do’s specifically for schools.  It’s all positive!

DO – Follow the school’s acceptable use policies for social media.  This might include just using student first names and last initial or a particular tool.  No problem.  The goal is the writing after all.

DO – Use a graphic organizer to brainstorm thoughts before sitting down to actually blog.  I’m a big fan of Popplet.

DO – Use all the components of the writing process.  After all, you’re writing – Prewriting, Drafting, Revising, Editing, Publishing are all nicely done online and “pass the laptop” peer editing with elbow partners works well.

DO – Publish for others to read and comment.  Parents always enjoy the opportunity to see student work live and immediate and can comment right on the spot.  I had an advantage explained to me once by an eLearning teacher that I hadn’t thought about but it sure makes sense.  By publishing so that others could read, plagiarizing went away totally – first of all the original author might find it and secondly classmates would rat them out!

DO – Use the hashtag #comments4kids.  There really are kind souls that like to support the blogging process by adding a comment now and again.

DO – Simplify the writing process.  Depending upon student age, why use a big, full-blown word processor with every bell and whistle known to human kind unless you like the myriad of teachable moments when the question “What does this do?” comes up?  Your blogging environment may have just the right number of options for most writing!





DO – Use the writing tools that comes with your blogging platform.  As a WordPress user, I totally rely on WordPress’ assistance!  (I’m still trying to avoid writing in the passive voice…)


DO – Include images.  Not the “go to Google Images page and right-click the first one” ones though.  Discuss Creative Commons resources (including Google’s) or, even better, have students create/photograph/scan their own artwork for inclusion.  Make it theirs.

DO – Blog in other languages.  What a great way to promote a second language than to publish it in the best possible, polished format.  Don’t forget that mathematics is a wonderful second language too.

DO – Blog regularly.  I would suggest that “one and done” is just a waste of time.  Make it a regular place to publish or journal what’s happening.  A comparison of writing at the end of the year will show how the writing has matured.  Don’t forget also to create a BlogBooker so students have a record of everything in one spot.

and a bonus…

DO – Consider your back.  Instead of loading up your personal knapsack full of papers to take home for marking, do it online!  You can easily use all forms of assessment publicly on the blog or privately through your wiki or email.

What do you think?  Blogging in the classroom is positive.  What did I miss?  Add them in the comments below.